Gift-giving is one of the great highlights (and stresses) surrounding Christmas. It causes anticipation and delight in young and old alike. It is a way of telling others that they are special to you, and that you took the time to think of them. Whether a hand-knit sweater, a jar of homemade pickles, or even a brand new, store-bought prezzie… it expresses love to the recipients of these gifts. But may I point out that these gifts almost exclusively end up in the hands of those we love?
It’s true, I did just say that gift-giving is a wonderful expression of our love and care for others. But I want to differentiate between love for one another, and showing love to others. The first happens easily. It’s the second that’s a little more complicated. Showing love to those who love us happens quite naturally; showing love to people that we don’t know well, people that seem really different from us, or who may even seem like they would rather not be loved, requires much more effort. But for their sake, and our own, it is well worth the effort.
Here are ten out of the box ideas for giving to both loved ones and those who might need a little extra love this Christmas season.
Adopt a Family. Many of us give to the food bank throughout the year, but at Christmas time, families in need can be “adopted”, and blessed with a wonderful holiday meal and gifts. If this seems like too great an expense for just one family to tackle, consider it project the extended family, office, or group of friends could contribute to.
Bake Cookies for your Neighbors. A festive plate of cookies are the perfect way to break the ice, or get to know each other a little better. While I hate to say that I don’t know my neighbors very well, I’m hoping we will have a chance to connect over coffee and cookies this holiday season!
Help Decorate for the Holidays. After my grandpa passed away, my grandma struggled to set up the tree and years worth of decorations. My aunts and mom helped her keep those memories alive by decorating with her, and then cleaning up again, so that it wasn’t so hard for her, physically or emotionally.
Gather Mittens and Hats. Most people have old mittens and hats in the back of their closets, and they would be appreciated by those without, now that the weather is colder. Ask friends and family if you could pick up any mittens or hats they may have, and then deliver them to a local shelter.
Babysit for A Family. Maybe you have nieces or nephews, or maybe your friends have kids. Whatever the case, parents don’t get a chance to get out often, and don’t want to be a burden by asking someone to watch their kids. If you know someone who has an event or special date coming up, beat them to it, and offer to watch the kids, for free.
Give ‘Thank You’ Gifts. Many people work hard to help us, from the stores and farms we buy from, to the crossing guard at our children’s school. By having a few gift cards, or boxes of chocolates on hand, you’ll be sure to have a token of thanks for each person you cross paths with.
Pack Bags Full of Toiletries. I don’t feel comfortable giving money to every person on the street that asks. But I always feel guilty, and wish I could help in some other way. I can’t take credit for this idea, but I love the idea of packing a bag of toiletries, snacks, and maybe even a gift card into a re-sealable plastic bag. Then, when someone asks me for money, I have something to offer.
Visit a Nursing Home. There are many elderly people who live in assisted living homes, and many of them, for various reasons, are very lonely. A quick call will let you know when you can come by to visit, help serve coffee, or even sing or play an instrument. Many of these homes also welcome doggie visitors as a part of animal therapy.
Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen. There are always needs in places that help the needy. Whether it’s serving up a meal, helping to prepare it, or cleaning up afterward, these places of refuge are run by the willingness of volunteers.
Sponsor a Child. Helping a child go to school, writing letters, and connecting on a personal level, is a unique way to help someone in need. Many organizations do a good job of getting your funds straight to the child’s education, family and community.
These are just a few ideas. I’m sure that there are many more ideas to help others and make a difference in our communities and around the world. Merry Christmas to you all, and may you be blessed as you seek to bless others this Christmas!